Summary: Training in the current environment is very much like sales, so it is absolutely necessary to find out what your best internal customers are planning for the upcoming year.
In the current environment, it’s a good idea to manage your best internal customers just as a sales manager would manage that pipeline. As part of your planning process for 2018, you will definitely want to make contact with your internal customers to find out what they are planning for the upcoming year – and why. And even more importantly, this contact serves to solidify your relationship as a solutions partner and not just a service department. By discussing the upcoming year with your closest customers, you may even begin to see the overall organizational picture before anyone else does – and with this information you can certainly determine how your department will help the
organization move forward in 2018.
The way you approach this discovery process will depend on how large your customer base is and how many of your own staff members can handle the process. To start with, you may want to devise a brief survey for key personnel, in which they provide a little information on what initiatives they are planning for 2018. Within the survey, provide an opportunity to rank upcoming initiatives and describe the expected outcome. Also indicate that you plan to follow up with a personal meeting. In that regard, the survey is simply a method to get both you and your customers into a strategic planning thought process. There really is no substitute for meeting with your clients personally, or at least via a web-conference or phone call.
When you do meet with your customers’ key players, avoid making a drawn out attempt to plug in every point where training can help achieve goals. There will be time for this later. But the purpose of the meetings is to gain an understanding of what each customer has on tap and to begin to formulate a picture of how you can help. Keep in mind that there may be areas that are out of reach for training. In addition, be aware that there may be other initiatives that are more important to the overall success of the organization for the next year.
This means that it’s a good idea to avoid making any promises. If you’ve sent some of your other staff members out to meet with customers, take the time to come together in person in order to discuss any overlaps or opportunities that may spread across departments or functions. Sometimes one of your customers may see only his or her part of the big picture because it is vitally important. If you and your staff look for trends, you’ll be able to see which initiatives affect which groups.
Depending on the number of internal customers you have, you may end up with a great deal of information. One way to begin sorting through it is to eliminate the areas where you may not be able to help out at all. For example, a small department may be changing its processes or policies. If that change is local, as in it does not affect a larger group, and the department has a handle on it without your assistance, go ahead and put that initiative on the back burner. Keep up with your client in order to determine how the initiative is going. Remember that small changes sometimes inadvertently turn into big ones.
Next, make a “pile” for potentials. These are the initiatives that may need a consultation or a push in the right direction, but may not need a full-scale training intervention. Finally, create a list of initiatives that you know will involve training on a large scale and begin to add those to your mental task list.
The items that make it to that mental task list will be the ones you want to start thinking about, especially in terms of time, human resources, and training technologies. Even more importantly, begin to formulate an idea of how training can impact those initiatives along with the organization’s bottom line.
As you mull over your mental task list, let’s turn our attention to your department and your vision for it in the upcoming year.
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